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U2 - How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb Print E-mail
Tuesday, 23 November 2004


How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
format: 16-bit Stereo CD
label: Interscope
release year: 2004
performance: 8
sound 8
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

Image The greatest competition for U2 these days, strangely enough, seems to be its own past. Both fans and critics alike praised the group when they stepped away from their increasingly overly sincere side most closely associated with “Joshua Tree” back in the late ‘80s. Later, with “Achtung Baby,” a healthily ironic part of U2’s personality was newly exposed and welcomed. But before long, even that over-the-top persona began to wear thin. Their previous release, “All That You Can’t Leave Behind,” brought back a little of the gut-level honesty last heard on “Joshua Tree.” Because of its close proximity to the events of 9/11, such lyrical vulnerability was refreshing. But now, with “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb,” the listener is sometimes left wishing to once again see a few knowing winks from Bono’s ironic eye. (I know. We U2 fans just can’t be pleased, can we?)

It should be pointed out that this criticism is based upon personal preferences alone, rather than any kind of a knock at the quality of the work itself. Bono’s lyrics, for instance, are both heartfelt and smart throughout this recording, just as they always are. Songs like “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” and “One Step Closer” were inspired by the recent passing of his father, and reveal how adept he is at turning personal pain into artful gain. But during “All Because of You,” when Bono sings, “I like the sound of my own voice,” you almost may feel like shouting back at your CD player, “Well, duh!” Of course Bono loves the sound of his own voice! (Egomania, after all, is the mother of rock ‘n’ roll invention). This lyrical line marks a point where Bono is having a little fun with his songs. But overall, he’s just not having a whole lot of fun here.

On another level, there’s also too much similarity in the sonics here. The opener of “Vertigo” gets this disc jump-started with a wonderful blast of uncomplicated rock power. It’s too bad the band couldn’t have returned to this slightly primitive approach more often. The song “Love and Peace or Else,” with its lumbering, semi-blues instrumentation, and The Edge’s garage solo on “All Because of You,” also touch upon rock elements. But the quieter moods of “Miracle Drug” and “Crumbs from Your Table” best exemplify the general mood of this disc, and it’s a somber mood that begins to dull the senses after a while.

It feels a little blasphemous to criticize U2 -- especially when there is such a glut of bad music being made these days. If you think about it, a whole lot of U2’s contemporaries ack from the ‘80s are already on their second or third reunion. In contrast, U2 continues to reinvent itself successfully again and again. But while “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb” is an excellently crafted album, it may not always be the flavor you’re in the mood for.

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